Department of Education

Dr Sandra Mathers

Senior Researcher

Sandra is part of the Child Development and Learning research group. Her main research interests are the quality of early education and its effects on child development, early language development and professional development.

She began her career as a primary school teacher, and her work remains strongly practice and policy-focused. In addition to her research, Sandra is a Trustee of the charity Early Education and a regular adviser to local and national policy-makers. For example, she recently served as a member of the Department for Education Expert Panel on early years language, literacy and communication apps (2019) and on the proposed revisions to the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum (2017-18).

Current research projects
  • Murphy, V. with Mathers, Nag & Hodgkiss. Investigating the home language environment for disadvantaged UK families speaking EAL (John Fell Fund, £55,199, 2021-22)
  • Dockrell, J., Law, J. and Mathers, S. Empowering Staff to enhance oral language in the early years (Nuffield Foundation, £357,257, 2019-20)
  • Miner, S., Black Country Consortium Members, Mathers, S., Williams, C. Ryders Hayes School – Strategic School Improvement Fund Round 3 Project (Language First) (£745,517, 2018-20)
  • Curtis, L., Mathers, S. & Williams, C.Everton. Nursery School and Family Centre – Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) Round 3 Project (Language Leaders) (£498,634, 2018-20)
  • Murphy, V., Mathers, S. & Eynon, R. Learning for Families Through Technology (LiFT) (Ferrero, £500,000, 2017-20)
Previous research projects
  • Barlow, J., Lindsay, G., Sylva, K., Mathers, S., Solomon, E., Summerbell, C., Glover, V. and Bick, D. Fulfilling Lives: A Better Start Evaluation (BIG Lottery Fund, £5.5m, 2013-2019)
  • Mathers, S., Siraj., I., Evangelou, M. and Williams, C. Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (Intervention Study) (Education Endowment Foundation, £907,544, 2015-19)
  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K. Evaluation of the Oxfordshire Leaders of Early Learning Programme (Oxfordshire County Council, £51,102, 2015-19)
  • Mathers, S. & Broome., E. Starting Out Right: Early education and looked after children (Nuffield Foundation, £44,483, 2015-16)
  • Sylva, K., Mathers, S. & Eisenstadt, N. Sound Foundations: What do we know about quality for under-threes and what are the implications for policy? (Sutton Trust, £30,869, 2013)
  • Mathers, S. Quality and Inequality: Do Children from Deprived Areas Experience Lower Quality Preschool Provision? (Nuffield Foundation, £32,723, 2012-14)
  • Mathers, S., and Singler, R. Improving Quality in the Early Years: University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education Ltd (Nuffield Foundation, £79,672, 2011-12)
  • Mathers, S. and Sylva, K., Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund (Quality study) (Sub-grant to main DfE grant held by the National Centre for Social Research. Sub-grant: £766,000; main grant: £1,244,794 to all partners)

Publications:

  • Featured Publications

    • MATHERS, S (2019) “Early education as an intervention for children in care”, In: P McNamara, C Montserrat, S Wise (eds.) Early Education in Out-of-Home Care: International Perspectives on Policy, Practice and Research. 1. Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26372-0

    • Barlow, J, Beake, S, Bick, D, Bryson, C, Day, L, Gilby, N, Glover, V, Knibbs, S, Leyland, A, Lindsay, G, Mathers, S, McKenna, K, Petrou, S, Purdon, S, Sylva, K, Summerbell, CD, Tudor, F, Wheeler, A, Woolgar, V (2017) “Initial protocol for a national evaluation of an area-based intervention programme (A Better Start) on early-life outcomes: a longitudinal cohort study with comparison (control) cohort samples”, Bmj Open.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015086

    • Mathers, SJ, Smees, R (2014) Quality and Inequality: do three-and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision.

    • Mathers, S, Eisenstadt, N, Sylva, K, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) Sound Foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality for early childhood education and care for children under three. Implications for policy and practice.. London:

    • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Impact Study Final Report. London: DfE.

  • Book chapters

    • MATHERS, S (2019) “Early education as an intervention for children in care”, In: P McNamara, C Montserrat, S Wise (eds.) Early Education in Out-of-Home Care: International Perspectives on Policy, Practice and Research. 1. Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26372-0

    • Mathers, SJ, Ereky-Stevens, K, Dalli, C, Barbour, N (2017) “Quality of Early Childhood Education and Care for Children under Three: Sound Foundations”, In: L Miller, C Cameron (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of Early Childhood Policy. SAGE.

    • Mathers, S, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in early childhood education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. 6th. London: Sage Publications. 55-72

    • Mathers, SJ, Roberts, F, Sylva, K (2013) “Quality in Early Childhood Education”, In: G Pugh, B Duffy (eds.) Contemporary Issues in the Early Years. London: SAGE Publications Limited.

    • Roberts, F, Mathers, S, Joshi, H, Sylva, K, Jones, E (2010) “Childcare in the pre-school years”, In: K Hansen, H Joshi, S Dex (eds.) Children of the 21st Century: the first five years. Bristol: The Policy Press. 131-151

  • Journal articles

    • MATHERS, S (2020) “What are the features of effective professional learning?”, Early Education Journal.

    • Mathers, SJ, Tracz, R (2018) “Early education as an intervention for children looked after”, International Journal of Birth and Parent Education.

    • Sammons, PM, Sylva, K, Hall, J, Siraj, I, Melhuish, E, Taggart, B, Mathers, S (2017) “Establishing the effects of quality in early childhood: comparing evidence from England”, Early Education. Occasional Paper. March 2017

    • Barlow, J, Beake, S, Bick, D, Bryson, C, Day, L, Gilby, N, Glover, V, Knibbs, S, Leyland, A, Lindsay, G, Mathers, S, McKenna, K, Petrou, S, Purdon, S, Sylva, K, Summerbell, CD, Tudor, F, Wheeler, A, Woolgar, V (2017) “Initial protocol for a national evaluation of an area-based intervention programme (A Better Start) on early-life outcomes: a longitudinal cohort study with comparison (control) cohort samples”, Bmj Open. 7(8)
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015086

    • Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Eisenstadt, N, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) “Supporting early learning for children under three: Research and practice”, Journal of Children's Services. 9(2) 177-187.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1108/JCS-02-2014-0008

    • MATHERS, S, Smees, R (2014) “Quality and Inequality in Early Years Provision”, Early Education Journal.

    • Mathers, S, Linskey, F, Seddon, J, Sylva, K (2007) “Using quality rating scales for professional development: Experiences from the UK”, International Journal of Early Years Education. 15(3) 261-274.
      DOI: http://doi.org/10.1080/09669760701516959

  • Reports

    • Nunes, T, Barros, R, Evangelou, M, STRAND, S, MATHERS, S, SANDERS-ELLIS, D (2018) 1st Class @ Number Evaluation Report. London: Education Endowment Foundation.

    • Mathers, S, Hardy, G, Clancy, CM, Dixon, J, Harding, C (2016) “Starting out right: early education and looked after children”, In: Starting out right : early education and looked after children. London: Nuffield Foundation.

    • Mathers, SJ, Smees, R (2014) Quality and Inequality: do three-and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision.

    • Mathers, S, Eisenstadt, N, Sylva, K, Soukakou, E, Ereky-Stevens, K (2014) Sound Foundations: A review of the research evidence on quality for early childhood education and care for children under three. Implications for policy and practice.. London:

    • Mathers, SJ, Singler, R, Karemaker, A (2012) Improving Quality in the Early Years: a comparison of perspectives and measures. University of Oxford, Daycare Trust and A+ Education.

    • Karemaker, A, Mathers, S, Hall, J, Sylva, K, Clemens, S (2011) Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: factors relating to quality: findings from the baseline study. Department for Education.

    • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker,, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Technical Report. London: DfE.

    • Mathers, SJ, Ranns, H, Karemaker, A, Moody, A, Sylva, K, Graham, J, Siraj-Blatchford, I (2011) National Evaluation of the Graduate Leader Fund: Impact Study Final Report. London: DfE.

    • Smith, R, Purdon, S, Mathers, S, Sylva, K, Schneider, V, La Valle, I, Wollny, I, Owen, R, Bryson, C, Lloyd, E (2009) Early Education Pilot for Two Year Old Children Evaluation. Nottingham: DCSF Publications.

    • Mathers, SJ, Linskey, F (2009) UK addendum to the ECERS-R.

    • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K (2007) National Evaluation of the Neighbourhood Nurseries Initiative: The Relationship Between Quality and Children’s Behavioural Development. London: DfES.

    • Mathers, SJ, Sylva, K, Joshi, H (2007) Quality of Childcare Settings in the Millennium Cohort Study. London: DfES.

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